Quotes from “The Unpublished David Ogilvy”

david-ogilvy-bookFirst collected by his devoted family and colleagues as a seventy-fifth birthday present, The Unpublished David Ogilvy collects a career’s worth of public and private communications—memos, letters, speeches, notes, and interviews—from the “Father of Advertising” and founder of Ogilvy & Mather.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

Will Any Agency Hire This Man?

He is 38, and unemployed. He dropped out of college. He has been a cook, a salesman, a diplomatist and a farmer. He knows nothing about marketing, and has never written copy. He professes to be interested in advertising as a career (at the age of 38!) and is ready to go to work for $5.000 a year.

I doubt if any American agency will hire him.

However, a London agency did hire him.

Three years later he became the most famous copywriter in the world, and in due course built the tenth biggest agency in the world.”

“I have a new metaphor.

Great hospitals do two things: They look after patients, and they teach young doctors.

Ogilvy & Mather does two things: We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people.

Ogilvy & Mather is the teaching hospital of the advertising world.”

“I hate drinking in bars, and have to start eating the moment I sit down in restaurants. Waiting for food puts in a foul mood.”

“Do all your campaigns execute an agreed positioning?”

“People who think well, write well.”

“Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.”

“The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most favourable image, the most sharply defined personality, is the one who will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”

“People enjoy life most when they have the most work to do.”


“When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”

“A very large part of what student and teachers do in the best colleges is sheer waste.”

“The mission of a great school is not to cram you with facts so that you can regurgitate them a few weeks later at an exam. This gives many boys such a distaste for learning that they never read another book as long as they live.”


“It’s tragic to see men and women wasting their lives in work that they hate or do badly. It’s never too late to find out that you’re doing something you don’t like, and are not very good at. Then you’ve got to take hold of yourself and decide what you would like to be doing most and then do it for the rest of your life.”


“…my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:

1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.

4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.

5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every concievable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.

6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)

8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)

12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.

Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility. ”


To what do David Ogilvy owed his material success?

Read the book to find out.


If you love advertising, marketing or business in general, you CAN’T MISS this book!


You find it on Amazon.com

or (FOR ITALIANS ONLY) at Amazon.it


Also make sure to watch this interview. Audio is terrible, but the juice of it is pure gold:







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